- What is the difference between AC and DC, and which is safer?
DC or direct current is an electrical current where electrons flow in one direction only. In AC, or alternating current the flow changes direction. All electrical currents are dangerous above a certain voltage, and care should be taken to avoid contact.
The risk to health that either an AC or DC current can carry varies according to each set of circumstances, although the different types of current do present different problems. All electrical installations should be approached with Safety First in mind, and any electrical work carried out by a qualified electrician.
- What is the best way to ensure the safe functioning of my electrical equipment?
Regular testing and/or inspection is the best way to make sure your electrical appliances are safe. The kind of testing and the frequency will depend on the nature of the equipment, and the environment it is used in:
- Avoid leaving too long between checks – this reduces the risk of an item being used in an unsafe state.
- Based on the risks of each item, a decision should be made about how often checks need to be done. A qualified electrician will be able to advise you on this.
- Always keep records on each electrical appliance noting how often testing or inspection should be carried out, and confirming the date and outcome of each test.
- Specialised equipment should be inspected by a relevant expert: the manufacturer, their repair agency, or a specialist servicing company.
- How can I ensure the safety of my electrical installation?
There are electrical contractors who can undertake rigorous testing of your wiring and electrical infrastructure to make sure it is fault free, fitted with up to date safety mechanisms and capable of withstanding the demands of its use.
These companies will be registered with a trade body such as NICEIC (National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting).
There are devices available called socket testers that claim to find faults in your wiring, but they are not universally able to detect all kinds of fault, and could give the impression that your electrical installation is safe, when it isn’t. The only way to be 100% safe is to employ the services of a qualified and reputable specialist electrician.
- What is the best source of advice on electrical safety?
For most electrical installations and equipment a qualified electrical contractor should be able to answer all your questions. If you are looking for advice on an industrial installation, or any other more specialised area, you may need to find an electrical engineer with suitable expertise.
- At what voltage does electricity become dangerous?
Any shock over 50 volts can cause direct injury, but smaller voltages can be dangerous too. Car batteries can catch fire if shorted, and even a low voltage domestic battery can cause a spark serious enough to present a fire or explosion risk in the right environment.
The momentary loss of control caused by any shock can lead to accidents with machinery or falls.